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Dressing For Business In The Middle East: The How-To There are plenty of options to bring a touch of artistic flair to your 9-5 outfit, so that you don't have to settle for boring.

By Madhur Kakkar

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Finance is a relatively conservative industry, in which every risk is calculated. These traditional values extend to how we dress for business, where stuffy suits in bland colors are the norm. It's rare to find fashion-forward styles amongst bankers and analysts, but then again, every industry needs a creative pioneer. As it so happens, I believe that there are plenty of options to bring a touch of artistic flair to your 9-5 outfit, so that you don't have to settle for boring. Here are a few of my ideas on how you can mix things up in your work wardrobe:

1. BE CLEVER WITH COLOR Look around an average office in the financial sector. What's the dominant color palette? Usually, some variation of grey. Try a suit –or just the jacket component– in a color that's more exciting. Cobalt blue falls within a traditional color family, yet it is bright and interesting enough to make you stand out. You can also try this with pastel green and reds. It draws attention, and helps people focus on you, whilst not going over the top. You might also wish to pair bright color ties with black trousers and a white shirt to enhance the effect. This has the additional benefit of allowing you to quickly adopt a more traditional style if you need to, depending on your schedule. And if you absolutely have to keep it monochrome, try flipping the colors around with a lighter colored suit and darker shirt. It still creates a striking look, but gives you the respect you deserve at work.

2. MIX IT UP WITH PATTERNS AND CHECKS It's not only the color of fabric that can transform a suit into a statement piece. Choose interesting patterns to really elevate your office look. You can test the waters by starting small, with pinstripes or a two-color check fabric. You might also wish to try bolder stripes, a more complex check, or tartan. A black watch suit –or just a jacket with black, navy, or dark green trousers– looks sophisticated, but breaks up the drab monotony of a modern office. For something a little more out there, try intricate patterns and botanical prints. Again, you don't have to go full flower power, instead a single statement piece can make the difference. Instead of the same old white shirt, pair a wild pattern with a traditional suit. The contrast is fresh and daring.

3. SHOWCASE YOUR PERSONALITY WITH TIES AND POCKET SQUARES Enhance your current wardrobe by investing in a pocket square that allows you to bring some personality to the workplace. Instead of opting for a muted color, switch things up with a bright hue, an exciting pattern, or a fun texture. This principle also applies to ties. In fact, there's so much choice when it comes to neckwear, it's the perfect choice for embarking on your creative odyssey. Think eye-catching color palettes and full-spectrum designs.

Related: Up Your Style Quotient: Four Must-Have Blazers For Any Occasion

4. ACE YOUR ACCESSORIES For a classic, stylish look, you can't go wrong by matching the color of your belt with your shoes. A navy suit, for example, works well with a brown or tan belt and shoes, and projects professionalism. There is also space for some experimentation, but stick to broadly similar color schemes. For example, charcoal suits work well with black or brown shoes and belt. If you go for brown, you might consider a lighter belt and a darker shoe, or vice versa. Double-check that your outfit is cohesive before you leave for work.

5. PUT YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD Footwear has become predictable of late, but it's time to try something new. According to the Journal of Research in Personality, shoes are one of the first sources of first impression, so it's important to get it right. If you prefer the smart, chic silhouette of the brogue, you don't have to stick to traditional colors. Choose a pair in striking black and white to bring an edge of creativity, or go all-in with multi-colored panels. The classic Oxford shoe looks professional, even in contemporary hues, like electric blue, midnight purple, and bottle green. They work equally well with traditional suits, as well as patterned and checked varieties. Green Oxfords and a tweed suit are also a classic look. If you're tired of the same old lace-up styles, give slip-on loafers a try.

6. GROOMING BRINGS IT ALL TOGETHER Your grooming habits can reflect your lifestyle, and with your new wardrobe style, you want to really bring it altogether. So, to give a professional appearance, always make sure your grooming is neat regardless of the style you choose. Consider that well-trimmed stubble can make a man look distinguished, but it does need regular maintenance. If you choose a beard or well-groomed stubble, consider a shorter and tidy haircut to round off the clean-cut look.

Ultimately, whatever you pick you should ensure that it's work appropriate and within guidelines, but that doesn't mean you can't add your own personality and flair when you're heading into work. Good luck!

Related: Decoding The New Workplace Dress Code

Madhur Kakkar

Executive Director – Investments and Strategy, Century Financial

Madhur Kakkar is Executive Director – Investments and Strategy at Century Financial.

Madhur brings with him over 10 years of professional experience in banking, financial markets and services covering areas of wealth management, priority banking and offshore investments.

Before joining Century Financial, Madhur’s had a rich banking experience across leading global banks in the region such as CITI bank and Standard Chartered. His last stint before Century was as an Assistant Vice President in CITI Bank (UAE) with previous stints at Standard Chartered in Priority Banking and ICICI Bank Ltd (seconded to Emirates Bank, Dubai)

Madhur is self-motivated and a frequent top performer catering to HNI, UHNI individuals, Corporates and Institutional clients. He has an excellent track record in managing discerning HNI, UHNI clients helping them with financial planning and management.


Madhur holds a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology from Guru Nanak Dev University and is a CISI certified financial professional having completed professional exams- Global Securities, Risk in Financial Services, International Certificate in Wealth and Investment Management and UAE Financial Rules and Regulations from the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).

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